Critical analyses of influential films


The Stalkers are journeymen trying to navigate a strange place known as the Zone where the normal laws of nature seem to have broken down. It is believed that their ultimate destination – ‘the room’ – contains the power to be granted almost anything in the world, or perhaps where they will face some kind of judgement. As this information is passed down by generations of Stalkers the journey becomes a spiritual one and the room a manifestation of faith. As they navigate the Zone they are tested by dangerous, invisible disturbances. It seems that nature itself, through some major cataclysmic event or divine intervention, has rewritten its own laws to survive. The Zone has become altogether more mysterious, alien and hostile. The presence of the Stalkers causes the environment to react and change, yet this also has an unseen effect on them.

Tarkovsky references painting in his films, such as the slow pan shot across The Hunters in The Snow by Peter Bruegel the Elder in Solaris. It makes sense to think that, as Slavov Zizek suggests, the Zone in Stalker is the blank canvas of the cinema’s silver screen, a place upon which the stalkers themselves find themselves trapped, roaming, trying to arrive at a cryptically unreachable nirvana. It permeates the film with an invisible radiation-like energy.

The film has a remarkable sense of place. It’s based on the 1972 novel Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, who also wrote the screenplay. It was filmed in Estonia and released in 1979.